Being fair minded & self reflexivity
03 March 2006 - Santa Rosa California. The Rev. Jane Spahr is currently on trial for violating the Presbyterian doctrine for conducting same sex marriage. Rev Spahr has ministered for more than 30 years. A lesbian and veteran activist, she has admitted officiating at the two lesbian weddings, but said she was following both her conscience and a call from God. She testified Thursday that she has performed hundreds of traditional weddings during her career and makes no distinction between same-sex and opposite-sex couples. The church as a whole seldom engages in self-reflexivity to question whether some doctrines which it has held so dear for so long is wrong or justifiable. It is on occasions like this trial where due to her ministry calling and a decision to stand firm to her faith that Rev. Spahr has caused a stir and a moment of self reflexivity for the Christian Church.
In the Christian Faith, self-reflexivity and being fair minded are rare but an important discipline where we engaged in a constant critical study and reflection. The Jews in Thessalonica unlike those in Berea were fixed in their theology and refused to consider any other views. We are called to search the Scriptures daily to find out whether the things we are being told is true. What makes self-reflexivity as Christians different is that it is addressed at both an intellectual and a spiritual dimension. If addressed only at an intellectual level of theological reflection, it is limited to our reasoning of the scripture which can be distorted due to the language, culture, and even perhaps insufficient content to derive a firm conclusion. It is also open to our self and humanistic approaches to life. If also addressed at a spiritual level through prayer, fasting, and spiritual discernment, we are able to overcome the limitations of intellectual reflections. Self reflexivity is hard work and we all have limited resources. We should endeavour to work to spend time where the Spirit leads us into a greater knowledge of Jesus Christ and His will for us.
There is a danger of over emphasizing reflexivity resulting in ministries where God did not intend despite making sense intellectually. A particular move might be God ordained initially but over time we begin to involve in other related areas. We become de-focused and our effectiveness reduced. For example, the Christian Right is a very large movement which has been very successful in bringing the message of the gospel and renewing the lives of many. But when it begin to be involved at a "state" level and against minority groups such as Gays, their foundation message will ultimately be diminished in its impact. Self reflexivity carries another risks of being being paralysed into in-action by intellectual self questioning. Once we receive a purpose and a mission from God, we have to take it and run with it. To come back and question brings us into stagnation and ineffectiveness. There is a right timing for self-reflexivity.
Self-reflexivity and fair mindedness has been an impetus for change. Churches and denominations have been formed out of consideration of where God leads them into certain new areas of ministry and theological positions leading to blessings of the church as a whole. For example, in City Harvest Church, the concept of "Church without walls" has propelled the church to new areas of service to the community and greater church growth. In New Creation, a unique revelation of God's grace has led many into a greater appreciation of God's love for them leading to changed lives. However, Self-reflexivity is rare in the lives of believers . We usually follow the teachings of our denomination or church without questioning the theological and spiritual basis for it. How do we gain greater self reflexivity? We have rendered too much power to the paid clergy in telling is what is right or wrong and what we should do. Some have entered into the fog of relativism where everything is equal including opinions and there is no inherent right nor wrong. In order to have a healthy self reflexivity, we have to establish four main foundations:-
Spiritual reality and truths are absolutes and does not depend on our current limited perceptions as fallen humanity which is subject to change over time. The above foundations provide the motivation for activities that encourages self reflexivity:-
Self Reflexivity and fair mindedness are ministry and community related and it will bear tangible fruit when we are involved in the ministry God has led us into. Self reflexivity allows us to be more effective in the specific ministries that God has willed for our lives that we may be a blessing to others. It demands that we take a breather from time to time, to listen to God, to listen to our experiences with people and circumstances whether we are going in the right direction. It leads us into taking firm stands against what we see as wrongs, injustice or lack and to do things differently.
The trial of Rev. Spahr is a testimony of how discriminatory Gays have been treated. The doors of the church, where they can come and seek Jesus to drink of the waters of salvation life have been virtually shut. The damage has been done. It may take decades to undo. The welcome voice of the Spirit declaring "Come, All you who are thirsty and heavy laden" without regards to gender, sexuality, status, colour of skin, has been drowned by seemingly "Christian" voices of condemnation that Homosexual lifestyle is sin (but hypocritically not the Heterosexual lifestyle of divorce and infidelity being specially stated by Jesus in the bible).
If found guilty by the judicial commission of the Presbytery of the Redwoods, Rev. Spahr faces sanctions ranging from a rebuke to removal from the ministry. Whether there is victory today does not matter for soon victory will come and the battle won for the church is not of man but of God and He will rebuilt His Church and it will be called blameless and righteous like a bride dressed in a white gown before the coming of the bridegroom, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Let us always have an attitude of humble Self-reflexivity as not to be left behind God's move and work amongst men nor come inadvertently against God in our religious zeal. There is a river of God that is beginning to rush down and filled with water from the throne room of heaven - to minister to the Gay community hitherto rejected and abused that they may be filled. God is doing a mighty new work in the churches that All may come and receive new life in Jesus Christ and that none is denied of the communion of wine and bread.